Local MP questions government transparency

MP representing Ponoka questions federal fundraising fouls, cautiously optimistic on pipelines

As ethics go, the current federal Liberal government is treading on thin ice, says one member of parliament.

That’s according to Blaine Calkins, Red Deer-Lacombe Member of Parliament and Conservative official opposition ethics critic, who has taken the government to task recently over fundraisers where people paid to get access to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and various ministers.

Whether it was money paid directly to the federal Liberal party or to the Trudeau Foundation, Calkins is aghast about how the government looks to be ignoring its own rules.

“It all simply doesn’t pass the smell test,” Calkins stated in an interview last week.

“From a government that promised to be open and accountable, behind the scenes they made it a point whether it was at an event at a Toronto law firm or a fundraiser in Halifax that one could get preferential access through donations.”

Calkins added that the lobbying commission is currently conducting an investigation, but that is limited in scope to whether or not lobbyists flouted the rules, not necessarily the government. So, a motion was put forward last month in the House of Commons calling for the federal ethics commissioner’s office to get involved and perform its own investigation.

“Regrettably, the government voted against the motion and are continuing to use a loophole in the ethics legislation,” he said, adding that the situation is reminiscent of 2006 Liberal sponsorship scandal.

“Canadians need to be alarmed as this breaks the trust and confidence in the government, which is the whole reason we have rules in place. I will continue hold the government accountable as the media has also been doing.”

Pipelines a positive

On the other hand, Calkins is cautiously optimistic about the pair of pipeline approvals that Prime Minister Trudeau announced last week.

“In reality, there are no new pipelines as Line 3 is a replacement for the current one and the Trans Mountain is simply a twin, providing just more capacity,” he said.

He added there remain hurdles before construction even begins on the two projects and he will continue to have questions asked of the government.

And some of those questions will involve why one other proposal the Northern Gateway pipeline was rejected even though the National Energy Board (NEB) recommended it be approved.

“The Prime Minister stated the other projects were approved after consideration of the technical expertise of the NEB, but then he rejects that same technical expertise with it comes to Northern Gateway,” Calkins said.

“The sad part is that Northern Gateway has a deep water port and would allow better access for Alberta to market their oil, whereas the Trans Mountain line means smaller ships and not the same market access.”

He added the good news is that there is hope for people of being put to work, although the need is there for both Northern Gateway and the Energy East pipeline especially when there is no need for Canada to be reliant on overseas oil.